Saturday, April 18, 2009

The task of compartmentalizing

You know those slippery mercury balls inside old-style thermometers? How impossible they are to catch and hold onto? That's how hard I find it to compartmentalize. I'm a good multi-tasker and I'm organized, but for the most part everything else in my life bleeds together, which can be exhausting.

Is it a male thing? (every guy I know seems to be good at it) Or is it personality driven? Either way, I'm bad at it. Example: I hate watching the news, because if there's been a catastrophe somewhere (a shooting, a kidnapped child, a fire) it'll stay in the periphery of my thoughts for days afterward, upsetting me.

I like this explanation: a fellow author (who's published a dozen novels, half of them NYT bestsellers) told me she believes most writers feel things at a different level, that we have the ability to examine all the events around us in a camera-like fashion, record them in our subconscious with startling detail, and can then effectively draw them out (along with the emotions associated with each event) when we're writing.

Sounds plausible, but I think it's also a personality driven trait.
What about you?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Writing can feel like this (parenting, too)

Metaphorically, I've been busy attempting to thread needles, both with my writing and parenting -- neither an easy task.

Often, I'll spend hours working on a scene and no matter what I put on the page I'm not happy with it. When this happens, I'll put it away and move on to a different scene (time and distance can be remarkable tools). However, there are also times when I'll push back my chair and simply ... stop, knowing that I've accomplished what I'd hoped to and that tinkering with it won't make it any better. And of course it's these moments that make all the long hours worthwhile, moments akin to successfully threading a needle. In the dark. With your hands shaking from lack of sleep.

Dramatic metaphor aside (because writing is hard and I feel it's only fair to represent it that way) I did manage to write two needle-and-thread scenes this week that saved me from deleting four others that have been frustrating me.

Similarly, the ups and downs continue on the parenting front... Like my youngest, who volunteered me for a field trip without my knowledge, tracing my signature off a writing contract (a shout-out for attention, don't you think?).

And then there's my 12 yr old who, for the first time (and I'm sure it won't be the last) yelled, "You don't understand me!" signalling the arrival of that slippery slide into a world filled with teen angst and miscommunication. The same kid who hugged me hours later and whispered, "You and me? Buddies for life," the way he used to when he was five and our days were often peppered with needle and thread moments.